The Future Is Now: Flash Throughout the Data Center

In a recent blog, Steve Duplessie made a bold statement about the future of Solid-state Storage(SSS) in the Enterprise:

People think about flash as a component of something. I think about it systemically – not inside a system, but inside the entire data center. The one who can orchestrate cache on flash throughout the entire data center is the one who will own the keys to the kingdom.

I agree, but in my opinion we’ve got a long way to go before Steve's vision of fully integrated and orchestrated end-to-end SSS will be realized in the data center. For a bit of insight into the future of end-to-end SSS in the Enterprise, let's compare the adoption of SSS to the evolution of the disk-based data deduplication market over the past decade.

ESG Lab tested its first disk-based deduplication solution at the storage end of the wire shortly after Data Domain came out of stealth in 2003. Since then, ESG Lab tested dozens of deduplication solutions as dedupe morphed from purpose-built hardware at the storage end of the wire, to backup software in servers at the end of the wire. Now it's evolving into end-to-end solutions throughout the data center (e.g., backup apps, backup appliances, primary storage solutions) and beyond the walls of the data center (e.g., cloud-based backups). Data deduplication took off in the data center due to its ability to solve a real and growing problem in the enterprise (shrinking backup windows) with compelling economics (the speed of disk at the cost of tape). The first set of startups and acquisitions were focused on dedupe packaged as a hardware solution. Software startups took hold next – Rocksoft and Avamar are great examples that have since been acquired and integrated into end to end solutions from Quantum and EMC respectively). All told, it took ten years before we were able to deploy dedupe throughout the entire data center. And even though it’s technically possible today, we’re still years away from broad end-to-end adoption in the enterprise.

Now consider the parallels to the evolution of the flash-based solid-state storage market. It started decades ago in HPC environments, but the high cost of solid-state components limited adoption to govt. and high performance markets where speed at any cost could be justified. As consumer flash technologies drove price down, the economics started making sense in the enterprise. EMC jump-started the enterprise transition as the first mainstream vendor to support solid-state drives in Enterprise-class disk arrays back in 2008.

Here we are four years later and it's playing out a lot like the deduplication market. ESG Lab testing of solid-state storage solutions started at the storage end of the wire as we tested hybrid solutions with a mix of disk and SSD and all solid-state appliances. Lately our testing has moved from the storage end of the wire towards the server end of the wire as we tested PCI flash adapters and NAS caching appliances.

It’s a few years out, but I agree with Steve – flash will be deployed throughout the data center in the enterprise and orchestration is the next frontier. In the interim, we’ll continue to see innovations in the emerging SSD software market with a focus on improving the efficiency and economics of this game changing technology.

To learn more about SSD strategies in the enterprise, join me for a Velobit webinar Thursday May 10 at 1 PM ET

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure ESG Validation Services